‘Saturday Night Live’ review: Vladimir Putin, Women’s March, Uber, and Aziz Ansari highlights (video)

SNL -Was it that hard to predict that Alec Baldwin would return as Donald Trump for this weekend’s new episode of “Saturday Night Live“? We don’t quite think so, given that yesterday was the Inauguration. It was a toss-up as to whether or not the Cold Open was going to be about either the event or the Women’s March on Washington. We figured it possible that we could actually see both.

As it turns out, the show did find a way to surprise us with putting out there Beck Bennett as Vladimir Putin for the Cold Open over Baldwin’s Trump, having him provide some commentary on the Women’s March and also the Inauguration. While in some ways it covered all the bases, we did not expect to see Putin at the start of the show given that Russia wasn’t necessarily the top news story from the past two days.

This was a funny Cold Open, and at times even an uplifting one — which is an odd thing to say given that we’re talking about something that featured Putin front and center for it. Yet, we got to see a great out-of-Weekend Update cameo from Kate McKinnon as Olya. That made for a great little button to add some more levity to what was a relatively short opening for the show. The big story may just be that Baldwin was not there, especially given that he had said at one point that he would be around for the show after Inauguration.

Stay tuned, as we’re going to have some more updates during the show as always!

Aziz Ansari monologue – We knew that this was going to be funny, and Aziz didn’t disappoint as he touched on everything from Trump’s Inauguration to the “lower-case kkk movement” that was going on with some people who were popping out of the woodwork and being racist now that Trump won. He touched on race relation, the Women’s March, and how he and his family weren’t going anywhere.

While Aziz may have more of a manic energy than Dave Chappelle did, tonally this set in the opening was relatively similar to what he did. Even though they both spent a lot of time firing of zingers and getting big laughs, at the same time there was a sense of hope and optimism from them. It was exactly what we needed at this particular time — and it was amazingly funny.

Beat the Bookworm – This was a sketch that had a lot of promise given that it was a game show all about beating a guy who seemed to know everything that could be found in books … just not anything when it comes to nineties pop culture. Once we got to that joke, there really was not anything else here.

Police interrogation – This was more effective, mostly because things got crazier and crazier over the course of it. It started with Aziz getting arrested and being harassed by Beck and Cecily Strong over not liking “La La Land.” Aziz’s responses to the interrogation were really great, but at the same time, we haven’t actually seen the movie. This would probably be even better if we actually knew a thing or two about “La La Land.”

Conway – “SNL” is really obsessed with Kellyanne Conway. This is the second major pre-tape sketches of the season all about her, and we understand why given that Kate McKinnon does such a kooky, interesting impression of her. Still, we’d classify this as being a great production about how Conway wants to be famous more than something that was legitimately funny. It was flashy and impressive to look at, but that’s about it.

Broderick & Ganz – Probably the funniest thing we’ve seen so far, mostly because it was a classic injury-attorney commercial gone sideways when it became increasingly clear that Ganz (Bobby Moynihan) was incompetent at his job and only got Aziz’s character $6,000 for a severe accident that merited a much larger payout.

Weekend Update – Of course there were political jokes aplenty, but the real shining stars this time around were Leslie Jones talking about movies (supposedly “Hidden Figures,” but very little of it was actually about that), and then Mikey Day coming on as Jake, a guy permanently stuck in the Friend Zone. Having Michael Che openly hit on the woman he loved right in front of his was painful, but also hilarious.

Dirty Talk – This may have been the best showcase for Melissa Villasenor that we’ve seen so far this season. She played the significantly other to Aziz’s character, who wanted to spice things up when it comes to their relationship. Everything that he wanted she was completely terrible at — and it was great.

Five Stars – Is this one of the new sketches that the show is doing thanks to their new product integrations? Maybe, but if so it worked out rather well given just how ridiculous and silly it was. The entire pre-tape revolved around two guys who were desperate to get their Uber rating up to five stars, and were doing everything that they could in order to get a good review. The entire back-and-forth was great, but the ending was such a shock and it had us dying.

Pizza Band – This was pretty ridiculous. Aziz played the head of an animatronic pizza band, the one that you likely saw at some point growing up, that became the target of Kenan Thompson’s cop character while he should have been rather busy working on a stand-off. While there were a few funny moments in here over the course of the sketch, it got rather old pretty quick.

“To Sir, with Love” – We’re not sure why someone at “SNL” decided to include this at the end of the show. While a tribute to President Obama is nice, this felt completely random and at times was also kind of confusing. Add to this the fact that neither Cecily nor Sasheer Zamata is a great singer and this was a weird way to end things.

Then again, this was a really weird show. It started super-strong, dipped before the first musical number, and was rather funny in the second half. The law commercial and the Uber pre-tape ultimately are the highlights of the night, and cheers to Ansari for a very good job as host. Grade: B.

As always, share your thoughts on the episode and the sketches now in the comments! Also, be sure to head over here to get some other news when it comes to the show. (Photo: NBC.)

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